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Horse Swimming, Hydrotherapy pool

Swimming for Horses: A dip into Equine Hydrotherapy

At the Northern Equine Therapy Centre, we were excited to be invited to explore the fascinating world of swimming for horses. Diane, the centre’s manager, guided us through the facility and shared valuable insights about the benefits of water therapy.

Why Do Horses Come to the Centre?

  1. Rehabilitation from Surgery:
    Horses recovering from surgical procedures are able to keep mobile in the therapeutic waters. Swimming allows them to regain strength without bearing weight on vulnerable limbs, backs, or colic-affected areas.
  2. Weight Management:
    Just like humans, horses struggle with weight management. Swimming provides a low-impact workout that burns calories without stressing their joints. It’s an ideal solution for overweight horses.
  3. Performance Enhancement:
    Competitive horses benefit from swimming as a cross-training regime. The water resistance challenges their muscles and cardiovascular system, enhancing overall fitness.
  4. Holiday Livery:
    When owners go on vacation, their horses often stay at the centre. Swimming keeps them fit and active during their “horse holiday.”
  5. Health Considerations:
    Whether it’s the owner’s health or the horse’s, aquatic therapy addresses various conditions. From Cushing’s disease to laminitis, swimming can alleviate discomfort.

The Magic of Non-Weight Bearing Exercise

Swimming is a game-changer for horses because it offers 100% non-weight bearing exercise. Here’s why it’s so beneficial:

  • Joint-Friendly: Overweight horses can exercise without straining their joints. The buoyancy of water supports their weight, reducing impact.
  • Post-Operative Care: After surgery, horses need gentle rehabilitation. Swimming allows them to move freely without risking further damage.
  • Compensation Prevention: By maintaining muscle strength and flexibility, swimming helps prevent compensatory issues that arise due to injury or surgery.

Hidden Benefits: Posture, Metabolism, and More

  1. Postural Correction:
    o Swimming encourages horses to engage their core muscles, promoting better posture. It’s like Pilates for our equine friends!
  2. Metabolic Reset:
    o Insulin-resistant horses benefit from aquatic exercise. Swimming helps regulate their metabolic rate, supporting overall health.

The Horse’s Perspective

One lap in the pool is akin to galloping a furlong on land. Horses work hard, building endurance and stamina.

How many laps do horses swim?
For the average horse in light work, they swim 6 laps, 3 on each side. Once they have finished swimming, we stand them under heat lamps to keep warm as they dry out.

During each session we ensure that all horses are happy and comfortable.

Monitoring Tiredness: Handlers closely observe fatigue during each session.
Swimming Technique: We assess how horses swim and recover.
Heart Rate Tracking: Regular heart rate measurements provide valuable data.
Assessment Tools: Each horse has a “before” and “after” photo, weight record, lap count, heart rate details, and a personalised aftercare plan.

How do they adapt to swimming if they haven’t done it before?

The majority of horses are happy to go in with positive encouragement. They are treated with confidence and given time to work out what is happening without feeling rushed or forced.


Some might jump in at first – usually the showjumpers or eventers, but most will edge in slowly. They tend to really enjoy it. It’s generally hard at first but they get used to is as they get fitter. And once they have swum for the first time, they are happy to go in again.

Solarium afterwards

How long do rehab stays typically last?

Horses typically spend 7-10 days at the centre, their primary goal is generally losing weight, although we have horses here for general fitness work, pre-season return to work plans, holiday livery while owners get a well earned break, and often we are a good holiday livery solution for horses needing medication or veterinary care, due to our trained staff and onsite veterinary clinic run by North West Equine Vets. Once owners have seen the benefits often horses will return for repeat sessions for ongoing fitness.

Conclusion

Swimming for horses isn’t just a leisurely dip; it’s a powerful therapeutic tool. From general fitness and weight loss to postural correction and metabolic reset. As we witnessed at the Northern Equine Therapy Centre, the water holds transformative potential for our horses and ponies.
If you would like to find out more about Hydrotherapy and the facility’s at the North West Equine Therapy Centre, you can visit them online here: https://www.northernequinetherapycentre.co.uk/ or follow on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/northernequinetherapy

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